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Nets, Celtics renew rivalry in Boston

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics will both get their seasons underway when the Atlantic Division rivals meet Wednesday night at TD Garden.

The Nets advanced to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs last season, before falling to the Miami Heat. Despite the success, the team underwent several key changes in the offseason.

First-year head coach Jason Kidd attempted a power play for more control over personnel. He was turned down with prejudice and allowed to seek other employment, which he did, with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Paul Pierce was acquired before last season in one bid for an NBA title in Brooklyn. It didn't work and Pierce is now a member of the Washington Wizards, trying to get them over the hump.

Lionel Hollins was hired to replace Kidd and his most recent stint as a head coach was a successful one. He guided the Memphis Grizzlies to the Western Conference Finals two seasons ago and will preach defense.

Joe Johnson remained overpriced, but effective. Last season he made the All- Star team. Brook Lopez should be ready for opening night after a second major foot injury last season and a setback earlier in the month. Kevin Garnett elected to play this season, his 20th, instead of retiring.

However, the most important piece might be point guard Deron Williams. The former All-Star was hampered by ankle injuries in recent campaigns, but declared himself ready for the season.

"I feel night and day better than last year," said Williams. "If this is the best my ankle ever got, then I'd be happy, because it's 300 times better than it was last year."

The Celtics missed the postseason in 2013-14, but that was predictable. Boston is in the throws of a rebuilding plan, although there is one All-Star caliber player in Beantown - Rajon Rondo.

The defensive stalwart is currently on track to play Wednesday night after he broke his left hand slipping in the shower. Surgery put his timeline at eight weeks, but he might try to play depending on how he feels. One thing both Rondo and head coach Brad Stevens agree on is that Rondo's conditioning will be an issue.

"There's still a long way to go with conditioning," the point guard said. "There's nothing like the real thing."

Rondo is in the final year of his contract, so his name will be floated in trade rumors until February. His potential replacement, Marcus Smart, was drafted in the first round, along with wing man James Young.

There is a lot of frontcourt depth in Boston, most of it young. Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Brandon Bass, Jeff Green, Evan Turner and Tyler Zeller all could get some action this season.

The Nets won three of four meetings last season with Boston.